Microsoft: Teen "Sextortion" Common Online

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A new Microsoft study shows that teen sextortion is running rampant online, with 44% saying they’d personally experienced sexual threats or knew of instances among family and friends. Of those who encountered sextortion, more than one-third said it happened nearly every time they go online!

The study, "Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2016," polled teens ages 13-17 and adults ages 18-74 in 14 countries about 17 different online risks. Because of the nature of the preliminary results Microsoft decided to release certain results early in order to warn parents and the public of the dangers their children are facing on the internet.

"We’ve chosen to make this preliminary release, featuring data about teens in the back-to-school timeframe to remind young people about the need for smart, safe and respectful online habits at home, at school and on the go," said Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft's Chief Online Safety Officer. "We will follow with an early look at key data from the adult respondents in the weeks ahead."

Microsoft will be releasing results of the full study on February 7, 2017 which is international Safer Internet Day.

The study focused on a variety of online risks including:

  • Reputational – “Doxing,” and other damage to personal or professional reputations
  • Behavioral – Being treated meanly; experiencing trolling, online harassment or bullying, and encountering hate speech
  • Sexual – Sending or receiving unwanted sexts and making sexual solicitations; being a victim of sextortion or non-consensual pornography (aka “revenge porn”), and
  • Personal and Intrusive – Being the target of unwanted contact, or experiencing discrimination, “swatting” or exposure to extremist content/recruiting.

Youths reported much higher incidences of unwanted online contact than adults, although both share an equally high concern about the risks. "Youth are especially troubled by the expectation of sexual threats becoming worse," says Beauchere. "What may come as a surprise is that youth were more likely than adults to have confronted or retaliated against their offenders. Nearly six in 10 (58%) of young people said they met their offenders in person compared to 43 percent of adults. Youth were more likely to have been in contact with their offenders when negative behaviors involved online meanness, unwanted contact or trolling."

The study noted that "unwanted contact" was the primary concern among both teens and adults, with 43% saying they had been approached inappropriately online. When you add in their circle of friends, 63% of people have had unwelcome contact.

For more tips regarding online safety visit Microsoft's YouthSpark Hub.

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